The Scent of a Woman
My first encounter with Liz was about a decade back. My project in China had just ended, and during my down time I was visiting a close relative (Who was there for work.), in China (Better not to name the city since it is not going to affect the relevance of this story.), and had the pleasure of staying in one of the better hotels there. This was the first time I was going to this city, and since it was a very close family, I decided to just put up in the same room, with an extra bed added to the room. (No, this is not a story about incest, and neither do I harbor any thoughts about my relative.)
Since my relative had to work the following day, I decided to go sightseeing by myself around the city. I got up bright and early that morning, had breakfast with my relative and after seeing her off in a cab from the hotel lobby, I decided to take to the streets on foot. I wandered around, stopping and looking at whatever caught my fancy, until I saw a lady sitting on a bench about 10 meters ahead of me, she was rubbing her ankle and appeared to be grimacing in pain. Seeing that she looked like a nice looking lady, I walked over and asked her in Mandarin if she was ok and if she needed any help.
Me: “小姐你好! 你沒事吧? 有甚麼可幫你的嗎?”
Lady: “我扭傷了腳, 現在很疼, 走不了.”
Me: “不如我幫你看看吧, 可以嗎?”
What happened was not sexy at all, I tried to massage her ankles, but the angry swollen veins just wouldn’t go away no matter how I tried. She told me that she had sprained her ankle while walking. Of course, other than a very typical amount of admiration for pretty ladies’ feet, it didn’t help that I did not have a foot fetish no matter how attractive they were. I felt sorry for her as I could tell that she was extremely well groomed and definitely not local.
A little visual on Liz – She looked about 28 then, with flawless porcelain skin on her face, long jet black hair and strangely, even though she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, she looked immaculate in every way. Have you ever met someone like that? From her long, smooth, silky hair to her manicured fingernails, down to her well-cut clothes and expensive looking patent leather slip-ons, she looked like…
1) She had a rich father.
2) A movie star.
3) A kept woman.
I offered to help her get somewhere where she could rest her ankle more comfortably, and so, I half-supported her, getting heavenly whiffs of her perfume (Chanel, I later found out.), and she slowly hobbled over to the shade where there was another bench she could put her feet up to reduce the blood congestion. Unfortunately for her, she was wearing a skirt and she tried to fold her legs to avoid sitting in an unladylike manner. Trying to be a gentleman, I took off my blazer and covered her feet with it. We decided to just let her ankle rest and I told her if she wanted, I could just sit with her and kept her company till she felt confident of walking.
Me: “你好, 我叫 Leo, 我是新加坡來的遊客.”
Liz: “你好! 很感謝你那麼好, 真不好意思還要麻煩你!”
Me: “小姐, 別那麼說, 如果不幫你, 我會很過意不去! 聽你的普通話不像是本地人!” (Switching to Cantonese.) “你系唔系廣東人?”
Liz: “嗨, 我叫 Liz, 我系香港人! 無該逝你幫我!”
With that, we had found a common language, and started chatting heartily. After about 30 minutes of resting, I got up and went to buy her a bottle of water, as I too was getting thirsty.
*Note that though I considered myself to be a good entertainer, I was usually reserved and only opened myself up when I was with close friends, and did not usually like meaningless conversations as I found them too tiring to keep up (Or the truth be told, I had a tendency to constantly yawn during boring meaningless chit chat.), and just so you get some background on this story, I was happily attached with a kid and had no intentions of being unfaithful.*
It turned out that she was staying in the same hotel as myself, so we slowly made our way back to the hotel when she felt good enough to hobble along. We made plans to meet the following day if her ankle got better and do some sightseeing together since we were both free. The next morning, I received a call in the room and sure enough, it was her, and she said the swelling had gone down and she felt good enough to explore the city once again. We agreed to meet up at the hotel lobby as soon as we were ready. Just before going down, I called the hotel concierge and asked if we could hire a van and a driver, and the hotel concierge was nice enough to arrange transportation for us at a cost of RMB 1200 a day.
We had a great day touring the city and the outskirts, and enjoyed ourselves in the van, chatting among ourselves and the driver, absorbing all the little nitty gritty details about the history and the culture that our driver had to share with us. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, it was lunchtime… The driver took us to a restaurant and allowed us to alight, and told us that he would pick us up after our lunch.
A waiter showed us to a table for two, and we ordered a nice but inexpensive lunch. Liz was an easy person to eat with, not too fussy and had really good social etiquette. Lunch was nothing to shout about, but I was greatly enjoying my conversation with Liz.
Without sounding like I was trying to intrude into her personal life, I found out that she was single, and lived in Hong Kong. She asked me about myself and though I did not like revealing too much about myself, I tried to answer as many of her questions as possible. Like myself, she was also visiting some friends and would only stay till the following day. Turned out that she was into stocks and was a frequent visitor to Singapore, three to four times a year for business, but did not know anybody other than her Singapore business associates. I also let her know I was single and worked on special projects and traveled alone frequently, so my work schedule was rather free and easy. In fact, my project often took me to Hong Kong for two weeks to a month at a time. She asked if she could call me if ever she was in Singapore and of course, if I was in Hong Kong I could always give her a call. Out of courtesy, I gave her my number and of course took her number with no intention of ever calling.
We spent the rest of the day finishing up our tour of the city and when we arrived back at the hotel, we were dead beat. We bade each other goodbye (And of course, the usual niceties like promising to keep in touch.), and went back to our respective rooms.
Fast forward to 8 years later, I had worked hard and did well in my career, and now headed a regional team spanning the APJ region. Still basically doing what I was doing before, but with more focus on delegation than doing actual work. My schedule was still as busy as ever though, and travel was hectic. My usual destinations were Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Japan and on my off days, I found Singapore to be highly enjoyable. I knew there would be many brothers here who would disagree, but believe me, I found great relaxation in spending my free time having coffee at a local coffee shop, drinking at pubs and the usual watering holes, and the KTV’s with my buddies.
One day I received a call from my regional head at 2200hrs Sunday while I was out at TAM with the usual suspects…
Head: “Leo? Sorry to call so late on a Sunday, but something just cropped up in Hong Kong, and I think you better find out what’s happening over there with your guys. The last I heard is they screwed up big time! My boss is fuming and if nobody gives her an answer before tomorrow afternoon’s meeting, somebody’s head is going to roll… Blah blah blah…”
Me: “Blah blah blah… Ok, I will go take a look personally tomorrow, will let you know around lunch… Blah blah.”
I booked myself on the next available flight and when I got into HKIA, took the Airport Express into Hong Kong station. Went straight into the office and soon, I discovered the magnitude of the problem. It had to do with some of my guys flouting some of the rules and regulations governing our industry in Hong Kong. After questioning them separately, I could confidently conclude they had done it unintentionally and nobody had benefited from the ‘Mistake’, but still the damage was done and damage repair measures had to be worked on to put things back in place. I called my regional head and informed him that I would be on site to supervise the damage repair and would be expected to stay in Hong Kong for up to a maximum of three months. He agreed and authorized me to go ahead.
What happened after that was not worth going into details, but I found myself getting swamped with work, often starting my day at eight am, having meetings back to back for most of the regular office hours, and then working till 2300 hrs in the night. I was getting frustrated and very burnt out. A month had passed and I was still busy as hell. The problem had mostly been rectified, at the cost of axing some staff, but preventive measures had to be put into place to ensure nobody would make this same mistake again.
One particular Friday night, I was in the office late as usual when I felt like a drink very badly. I scrolled through my phonebook in my Blackberry, looking for a drinking companion in the +852 when I saw ‘Liz Cheng’. Now, I have had the habit of backing up my address book with my Outlook for many years now, and now when I stared at that name I could not recall who that was. Oh of course! Liz from my China tour group! But it had been so long… Would she still be using this number? Would it be convenient to call at this time? What if she was married? Or worse, putting her kids to bed? In my selfish need to find a drinking companion, I hit the ‘Send’ button and soon I heard a ringing tone, yes! It still worked!
Blackberry: “Drood… Drood…” “喂?”
Me: “喂? 唔該 Liz 啦…”
Liz: “系, 你系邊位?”
Me: “我系 Leo 啊, 上次在XX城市跟團識得你嘅, 你總記唔記得我啊?”
Liz: “當然記得啦! 你幾好嗎? 好耐無見啊!”
Me: “系啊, 我衣家系香港作野, 唔知你得唔得閑, 捻住叫你出來飲杯野?”
Liz: “好啊! 衣家? 你有無開車啊? 我過來車你? 你在邊既位置?”
Liz: “好啊, 20 分鐘見!”
Bingo! Finally an end to my boring night of staring at endless documents! I quickly gave her my office address in Central and she said she lived really close by and would be ready in 20 minutes. We arranged to meet at my office building’s taxi stand and I took the 20 minutes to freshen up using my spare office shirt and a travel toothbrush I kept in my bag at all times. I packed up my stuff and headed downstairs from my 62nd storey office.
I lit a cigarette and took a deep drag; trying to release the stress I had accumulated over the past month and wondered how I should react when I saw Liz. I mean, it had been 8 years since I saw her and I wondered how she looked now. And god, I wondered how I looked now compared to back then. Fortunately, I was pretty confident that time had been merciful to me, and I had only looked more mature with some distinguished grays sticking out my temples, but other than that, my 40 years were really quite easily mistakable for 35.
A black Cayenne Turbo pulled up at the taxi stand and the windows rolled down… “Leo?”
I lowered my head and peered into the car. God, in there sat the cutest and most seductive woman I had seen in months. ;P I opened the door and got into the car…
Me: “嗨 Liz! 點解你看上來總後生過上一次?! 你比八年前總靚女哇!!”
*Ok its getting really difficult to type in Cantonese slang and I am spending too much time searching for the Cantonese letters and many of them don’t exist on my notebook, so I will be reiterating all Cantonese conversations in English.*
She laughed easily and said…
Liz: “Hey, I don’t remember you being such a smooth talker… Are you sure you are Leo?”
Me: “As sure as I am sitting beside the prettiest woman I have laid eyes on for months! By the way, you have a nice car!”
Liz: “Thanks! It’s very popular in Hong Kong right now, almost all my friends have one in their families!”
She smiled radiantly and leaned over to give me a friendly hug and I returned the favor by giving her a social kiss on the cheeks. She had her long beautiful hair bun-ed up and she wore very light make up, just enough to accentuate her high and well-defined cheekbones. The heavenly scent that I remembered from the first time I met her was still lingering around her. (Yes, Chanel!) To be brutally honest, she still wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, but she definitely was the kind of woman you would want to take more than a look at.
Liz: “So what have you been up to since I saw you?”
Me: “I’ve been working really hard, trying to keep my bank balance out of the red… What about you? You look really great, like you have been on holiday since we last met!”
Liz: “Hey, I have been working too! Anyway, let’s get a drink and then we’ll talk! Do you have any idea where to go?”
Me: “I am easy, just give me a drink and I will be contented!”
With that, she turned the car around and very soon, we found ourselves at Lan Kwai Fong, at the top level of one of the hotels, turned out we both liked brandy, so we were taking shots of Paradis out of a bottle, listening to soothing female vocal jazz.
I found out that she was still single, but had gotten lucky and made some money from her investments and now she was in a semi-retired state, waiting for her next investment opportunity. She still seemed every bit the rich tai-tai, with her simple elegance and easy laughter, always seeming to see things in the best light. She didn’t look a day older than when I last saw her, and if it was even earthly possible, she looked even younger with flawless porcelain skin on her face, hands and legs. She wore her hair in a bun, and had the slightest tinge of highlight that showed a rebellious streak. Her black simple top had a large neck opening and her cream-colored pants were silky soft and flowing. She was perfect no matter which way I looked at her.
I filled her up on my life, how I spent the last decade working my ass off, how I was married and had a beautiful son, but sadly, as well as I was doing, I could feel that there was a marked difference between us. I recomposed myself and told myself that I had achieved what I had wanted – a drinking companion for tonight and that was it. I was happy with my life at this point and enjoyed my work so there was absolutely no reason to ruin a good thing.
We finished our drinks at 0300 hrs, and soon it was time to say good-bye. She insisted on paying the bill, saying that it was her duty as a host. I had to give in as she said otherwise she would be unhappy. I thanked her for the wonderful drink and gave her a hug and peck on the cheek, and told her she should not attempt to drive home after all that alcohol. She agreed to leave her car in the hotel car park and at my insistence, allowed me to see her home in a cab. I hailed for a cab and asked for her address – turned out she lived at the Mid-Levels area, in a house. When we got to her place, she got out of the cab and bade me good night, promising to meet me the following day for lunch.
I gave her another peck again and got back into the cab. The cab took me back to my hotel – Island Shangri La back in Central, with the nosy driver inquiring where I was from, what did I do, who my friend was, and making comments that my ‘friend’s’ house was probably worth between HKD $150 – 200 millions. I was rather shocked to know that Hong Kong property prices were that much higher than what we got in Singapore. I did not answer most of his questions and pretended I was too drunk to hear what he was asking. By the time I got back into my room, I only managed to take a very quick shower before crashing into bed, completely exhausted by the alcohol and the entire week’s late nights.
The next morning, I was awakened by the loud ringing of my Blackberry and in my half asleep state, I saw Liz‘s name on the caller ID.
Liz: “Hey sleepy head! Good morning! Wake up for breakfast!”
Me: “Hey, good morning… What time is it?”
Liz: “It’s 10 am now, you wanna get something to bite?”
Me: “Yeah, sure, give me 15 minutes to wash up?”
Liz: “Ok, see you at the hotel lobby! At 1030 hrs?”
I got out of bed and went to brush my teeth, and took a long hot shower. I got dressed in a short sleeved piqued pink polo shirt with casual khaki slacks and a dark blue sport jacket with matching dark blue loafers. I sprayed some Armani onto my chest and headed towards the lift lobby.
When I got down to the lobby, I saw Liz. Like me, she was dressed in a red short sleeved cotton polo shirt, and a pair of cotton cream casual 3/4 slacks that hugged her shapely hips perfectly. She had a light taupe pullover draped over her shoulders and she topped her extremely chic look with an over-sized cream baseball cap. She had on a pair of elegant taupe leather slip-ons. She looked amazingly casual and yet, there was this air of elegance around her that I just couldn’t put my finger on. When she saw me, she walked over to me and gave me a hug and a friendly peck on the cheek. Not wanting to appear standoffish, I reciprocated.
Liz: “Hey Leo! What do you feel like having?”
Me: “I am starving, how about the dim sum at the Marriott? Man Ho is pretty good for dim sum, are you ok with that or would you like to go somewhere else? But it has got to be my treat this time ok?”
Liz laughed and said, “Ok sure! Let’s go see how good they are!”
She hooked her hand around mine and we took the lift up to the 3rd level. The lift door opened and we walked out to the restaurant reception. The waitress, upon seeing us, greeted us and showed us to a small table.
I fiddled with the dim sum menu and ordered a few of my favorites and enquired what Liz would like before putting in the order. Soon, we were enjoying ourselves, chatting away happily like long lost friends and sipping 功夫茶.
Just then, the captain walked past, and purposefully made a round of 功夫茶 for us, at the same time saying…
Captain: “鄭小姐, 你好! 唔好意思, 剛剛無見到你地入來!”
Liz: “唔緊要, 我今日無定位, 系同我 friend 來飲茶的.”
Captain: “今日要唔要蒸條魚啊, 還是如過你們已經吃飽了, 要唔要來些甜品?”
Liz: “Steven 啊, 這餐系我朋友做東, 禮貌上你應該問佢! 讓我介紹, 這位系 Leo 先生, 系你地酒店的客人.”
The captain apologized profusely and explained to me that Liz was a regular at their restaurant and so naturally thought that she was entertaining me, that was why he had approached her first. I told him it was alright and ordered some desserts that he said were the specialties of Man Ho. He insisted on not charging us for the dessert to apologize for his mistake, which I accepted graciously. We had a really good time at dim sum and soon I signed for the bill and we decided to do some sightseeing.
I had been to Hong Kong many times for business, but I was usually alone, and so never bothered to do much sightseeing. I knew Hong Kong well, but Liz insisted on showing me around Hong Kong and since it was Saturday, I happily obliged to having such an attractive lady by my side, being my tour guide. We went down to the lobby again and this time, once we walked out of the hotel, Liz‘s Cayenne Turbo was waiting for her at her at the entrance. I didn’t notice her number plate the night before, ‘LC8’, must have costed her a pretty penny. She waved at the valet and turned to me and asked if I could drive?
The valet came up to her and said, “郑小姐, 你好! 系晤系衣家走啊?”
Wow, so she was a regular here… She explained that she frequently put her guests at the Marriott and for convenience sake, she also liked to entertain at Man Ho.
Me: “I can drive, but I need some road guidance!”
Liz: “No problem! I can guide you, but I just don’t like driving!”
I took over the driver’s seat and soon we were cruising along the roads of Hong Kong Island, admiring the beautiful harbor and the endless sky skyscrapers that lined the Victoria Harbor and the Northern shore. I had driven in Hong Kong many times during my trips and knew a little about the layout of the roads. We chatted easily and made lots of jokes with each other.
Driving in Hong Kong was very different from driving in Singapore. There were hardly any U-turns and roads were a lot more narrower and complicated. People drove very fast in spite of the winding roads. Basically, if you didn’t know exactly where you were going, you won’t get there by car, because you would be circling round and going up and down bridges, constantly being able to see the place you wanted to be, but never being able to actually reach there due to many roads being one way with many no left or right turns. We drove on Connaught Road – from Admiralty to Central, and Liz showed me the older areas like Sheung Wan, then we went back east again, this time exploring the Mid-Levels and Wan Chai area. She took me on the little back alleys and interesting little pockets of bustling activity like the Wan Chai market and Soho. She really knew this place very well. Finally we went up Victoria Peak. I was now getting used to the Porsche and it handled very well, my only grouse was that it was a little hard to control going up The Peak as it needed too much revving to stop it from switching gears incessantly.
We parked the car at the little shopping centre at the top of the peak and we walked around, snapping pictures happily. We were unknowingly holding hands now and acting like a student couple. We shared ice-creams and Liz held onto my hand every single minute without letting go. It was the best feeling in the world. We were finally tired and took a seat on a bench in a pavilion, looking down at the sea and the buildings.
Suddenly there was an awkward silence, and time just stood still as we looked into each other’s eyes. Liz‘s eyes had the most vulnerable and tender look that I had ever seen in any woman. It was as if I could look right into her soul just by staring at those eyes. I leaned forward and I had just the most irresistible urge to kiss those tender lips. Knowing what I was intending to do, Liz closed her eyes and prepared herself for my gentle assault on her soft tender lips. Not wanting to be too aggressive, I had intended it to be a dry kiss, and that was all there was. There was no tongue on tongue action and I didn’t want to scare Liz by pushing my luck. To my surprise, she offered her tongue to me and for the first time, I tasted Liz. Her breath was indescribable. I suddenly wished I did not just smoke a cigarette 20 minutes ago and wondered how horrible my breath must have smelt. Liz was not a smoker and judging from her pearly white teeth, she must practice good dental hygiene. My hands now moved upwards, back up to the small of her back, caressing her shoulder blades and for the first time, I discovered just how small of a frame Liz had. I stopped at her hair, held her head in my hands and slowly stroked her long luxurious hair, taking in deep breaths of her deliciously intoxicating shampoo. I was totally intoxicated by her. I broke away from the kiss and said…
Me: “Sorry, I shouldn’t have smoked just now. This is so embarrassing, my breath must stink like hell.”
Liz: “No, actually I couldn’t smell any tobacco… Maybe I was too engrossed, and sometimes a little whiff of tobacco smells really macho.” She smiled.
Me: “Shall we go somewhere else? Are you hungry?”
Turned out she was already hungry and we decided where to eat next – she wanted to bring me to one of the oldest and most traditional noodle places on Hong Kong island – 九記牛腩! I had been there previously, but that was a few years ago and I sure as hell missed the succulently marinated beef tendons and stomach. For brothers who do not know where and why this place is so famous, it is because they have been around for decades and it is said that even the Governor General frequents this place. We ate heartily and the waiters kept looking in our direction, wondering why we were so at ease, with no pretense even though Liz looked too impeccably dressed to be eating at a rundown place like that. I wasn’t too shabby looking myself, and plus with Liz‘s car parked a couple spaces outside the little shop, we looked rather out of place. Nonetheless, the beef brisket was superb and we washed it down with cream soda, in a traditional bottle packaging.
Liz: “What’s next? Anything else you would like to do?”
Me: “Hmmm… Any suggestions? Are you tired? You need a rest?”
Liz: “Mmmmmmm… A rest sounds good, but shouldn’t we work off some of the beef brisket?”
Me: “Er… Are you suggesting…?”
Liz: “Of course! Let’s go!”
She laughed and gave me a playful wink.
We got back into the car and very soon, we were frolicking on the beach, in the setting sunset at Repulse Bay, feeling the warm sand in between our toes, holding hands as we strolled slowly along the beautiful beach. The feeling was indescribable, and I didn’t want it to end. Suddenly…
I looked at my phone and it said, “XXXX calling.” Insert wife’s name here.
I answered, and it was my wife, asking how I was, and if I had eaten dinner? I had to tell her I was out with my colleagues and briefly chatted with her about how hectic work had been, and how nice it was to be able to enjoy a weekend of pure relaxation. I told my wife the truth about everything I had done, with of course the exception of Liz‘s existence. My wife had always trusted me, and after chatting for a couple minutes, we hung up.
I turned around to look for Liz and found that she had continued walking ahead of me. I caught up with her and held her hand, and when I looked into her eyes, I could swear I saw a look of sadness in her eyes.